Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study finds southern Indian Ocean humpbacks singing different tunes

02.02.2012
Researchers from WCS, Columbia University, and others find an unusual divide in song themes sung by whales in Madagascar and western Australia

A recently published study by the Wildlife Conservation Society and others reveals that humpback whales on both sides of the southern Indian Ocean are singing different tunes, unusual since humpbacks in the same ocean basin usually all sing very similar songs.

The results of the study—conducted by researchers from WCS, Columbia University, and Australia —contradict previous humpback whale song comparisons. Generally, when song from populations in the same ocean basins are compared, researchers find that the songs contain similar parts or "themes." The differences in song between the Indian Ocean humpback populations most likely indicate a limited exchange between the two regions and may shed new light on how whale culture spreads.

The paper appears in the January edition of Marine Mammal Science and is available on the journal's website. The authors of the study include: Anita Murray, formerly of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Columbia University ; Salvatore Cerchio, Yvette Razafindrakoto, and Howard Rosenbaum of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Robert McCauley of Curtin University, Perth, Australia; Curt S. Jenner of the Centre for Whale Research, Fremantle, Australia; Douglas Coughran of the Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth, Australia; and Shannon McKay of the School of Life and Environmental Science, Warrnambool, Australia.

"In the Northern Hemisphere, within an ocean basin whales sing songs that are composed of the same themes. However, whales in the southern Indian Ocean are singing almost completely different songs. Songs from Madagascar and Western Australia only shared one similar theme, the rest of the themes were completely different," said lead author Anita Murray, who conducted the research while a graduate student at Columbia University and the Wildlife Conservation Society and is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Queensland in Australia. "The reason for this anomaly remains a mystery. It could be the influence of singing whales from other ocean basins, such as the South Pacific or Atlantic, indicating an exchange of individuals between oceans which is unique to the Southern Hemisphere."

The songs of humpback whales are generally sung by male individuals on a population's winter breeding grounds, migratory routes, and summer feeding grounds. The songs themselves are complex arrangements of parts or "themes," consisting of ascending and descending wails, moans, and shrieks that are repeated in cycles lasting up to 30 minutes. The transmission of songs between individuals from different populations is likely to occur on feeding grounds or during migration when whales from different populations mix. Or, transmission of song may occur when individual male "troubadours" travel to different breeding grounds between breeding seasons or possibly during the same breeding season.

The research team made recordings of humpback whale songs in two locations in coastal Madagascar and three locations along Western Australia during the 2006 breeding season. Research teams in both regions used hydrophones to record the songs of 19 individual whales. Overall, the authors captured more than 20 hours of whole and partial songs for visual and audio analysis. The comparison revealed few similarities between songs; of the eleven themes recorded in both regions, only one theme was shared by both populations.

Due to the limited duration of the study (only one breeding season), researchers point out that continued analysis of songs in Madagascar and Australia are needed to examine the reasons for the limited similarity in repertoire.

Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS's Ocean Giants Program said: "These song comparisons complement our findings based on other methods, such as those from genetic analysis, to understand how whale populations interact with one another."

WCS conservationist Salvatore Cerchio added: "We have glimpsed here a snapshot of differences in repertoire between humpback whale populations of the Indian Ocean during a single season. Continued monitoring of these songs can provide us with valuable information on how whale songs are exchanged and how those channels of cultural transmission can be protected in the future."

WCS has been involved in research on humpback whales since the 1960s, when researchers from the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society) discovered that the vocalizations of humpback whales are, in fact, songs, defined as a series of themes that are repeated in cycles. For the past decade, WCS's Ocean Giants Program has conducted an extensive molecular analysis of humpback whale populations in the southern Atlantic and Indian oceans in an attempt to better define discrete populations.

The humpback whale is a baleen whale that grows up to approximately 50 feet in length. The species has distinctively long pectoral fins and a head with knobs on the top and lower jaw. The slow-swimming species was hunted commercially until the International Whaling Commission protected the species globally in 1966. Current estimates for humpback whale numbers are widely debated. While they are recovering, total population sizes may represent only a small percentage of the original global population.

John Delaney | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wcs.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Self-organising system enables motile cells to form complex search pattern
07.05.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht Mouse studies show minimally invasive route can accurately administer drugs to brain
02.05.2019 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plumbene, graphene's latest cousin, realized on the 'nano water cube'

23.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

New flatland material: Physicists obtain quasi-2D gold

23.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

New Boost for ToCoTronics

23.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>